There has been a climate of fear since Beijing announced it had defeated the coronavirus within the boundaries of China. Any voice that hints a criticism of Xi Jinping’s actions during the outbreak has been duly dealt with in post-pandemic China. In extreme cases, there have been reports of house arrests and missing persons.
The courageous citizen journalists Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua, who tried to report freely about the situation in Wuhan, are now missing.
Property tycoon Ren Zhiqiang was reported missing by friends after writing an essay criticising President Xi and the Chinese government for silencing coronavirus whistleblowers, with the latest reports suggesting he is being detained in Chinese government custody.
Ren Zhiqiang wrote that “without a media representing the interests of the people by publishing the actual facts, the people’s lives are being ravaged by both the virus and the major illness of the system”.
Doctor Ai Fen, a whistleblower who criticised Beijing’s censorship of information about the coronavirus epidemic now remains barred from communicating with media.
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This dramatic post-pandemic purge, coupled with the particularly negligent and conceitful circumstances around the reprimanding of the late Doctor Li Wenliang, who tried to warn authorities when Covid-19 was first detected, has drawn many academics to take a stand.
A call for change within China was poignantly pronounced by Doctor Li on his deathbed, when he said, “there should be more than one voice in a healthy society.”
China, which operates under one-party government rule, has faced substantial criticism from western leaders and human rights groups for its early efforts to suppress information about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.
The letter pointed out the systematic failures of the Chinese authorities and lack of transparency in the face of what has become a world-changing crisis.
The letter stated: “The roots of the pandemic are in a cover-up by CCP authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province.
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“Under the influence of the CCP the World Health Organisation first downplayed the pandemic.
“Taiwanese health officials also allege that they ignored their alerts of human-to-human transmission in late December.”
The letter, that was signed by academics and politicians from around the world, added: “We should never forget that China’s Chernobyl moment was a self-inflicted wound.
“The CCP silenced Chinese doctors who wanted to warn other health professionals during the early stage of the outbreak.
“Dr Ai Fen can no longer appear in public after accepting a domestic media interview.”
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The letter was in response to a carefully constructed declaration made by 100 hand-picked scholars from within China who, at the behest of the CCP regime, issued a statement that framed the origin and spread of coronavirus with a new narrative.
This new, airbrushed narrative that calls into question the origins of the virus befits Xi Jinping’s efforts to capitalise on his victory over the pathogen that may have come from outside China.
On April 2 2020 a group of one hundred Chinese establishment scholars wrote an open letter decrying the “many critical voices politicising the COVID-19 pandemic”.
They stated that “at this stage of the pandemic, the exact source and origin of COVID-19 remain undetermined, but these questions are unimportant and finger-pointing is demeaning and hurtful to everyone”.
By claiming the origin of the virus is still unknown reinforces Beijing’s recent nuances that the virus did not come from China.
The letter from the Chinese scholars added: “Political bickering does nothing to contribute to the healthy development of Sino-US relations, nor will it help the people of the world to rationally and accurately understand and cope with the pandemic.
“In the end we will all respect the final determination of scientists.
“Like many other countries, China is a victim of the virus, but also a success story overcoming it, and it is willing to work with people of other countries to stop the spread of the pandemic.”
Doctor Andreas Fulda of the University of Nottingham was the initiator and chief editor of the open letter that responded to the Chinese academic statement.
The recent letter instigated by Doctor Fulda has fermented wrath from Beijing.
Pro CCP tabloid, The Global Times quoted analysts and wrote: “The latest letter is filled with pure ideological bias, attacks and lies.
“The letter pinned the sources of the pandemic on China’s system and accused China of”silencing” doctors who wanted to warn others.”
Mr Fulda hopes the open letter can help the international community to make a clear distinction between the CCP and China’s civil society.
Speaking to journalist William Yang, he said: “The open letter makes it very clear that besides ‘official China’, represented by the party-state, there is also the ‘unofficial China’, which is made up by independent-minded academics, doctors, entrepreneurs, citizen journalists, public interest lawyers and young students who no longer accept the CCP’s rule by fear.
“Their individual voices are already forming a chorus.
“They demand nothing less than a critical evaluation of the impact of CCP policies on the lives of Chinese citizens and citizens around the world.
“We urge you to join them.”
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